Both an actor and thespian, Harry Lennix joins The Blackest Questions to talk about some of his most memorable roles both on stage and behind the camera. As well as his love for Chicago and the plans he has to help future artists in his hometown.
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Dr. Christina Greer [00:00:06] Hi, and welcome to the Blackest Questions. I’m your host, Dr. Christina Greer, politics editor for theGrio and associate professor of political science at Fordham University. In this podcast, we ask our guest five of the Blackest questions so we can learn a little bit more about them and have some fun while we’re doing it. We’re also going to learn a lot about Black history past and present. So here’s how this works. We have five rounds of questions about us. Black history, the entire diaspora, current events, you name it. And with each round, the questions get a little tougher and the guest has 10 seconds to get it right. If they answer the question correctly, they’ll receive one symbolic black fist and they’ll hear this. And if they get it wrong, they’ll hear this. But we still have them anyway. And after the trivia portion is done, there’ll be a Black bonus round with our guest where we learn just a little bit more about them. So our guest for this episode is Harry Lennix, the seasoned actor and producer from Chicago who’s been a part of dozens of TV shows and films, including The Five Heartbeats, Ray, The Matrix, Dollhouse and several DC Superman films. And for the past ten years, he’s played Harold Cooper on the hit TV show The Blacklist.
The Blacklist [00:01:15] Protecting anything we were writing was wrong. Keep telling yourself that.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:21] Lennix is also a stage actor who fell in love with it while studying to become a priest. We’ll hear more about that in a minute, but chose to take a different path. And major, in acting at Northwestern University. Lennix now lives in Los Angeles, where he’s also founded two production companies. I would like to welcome Harry Lennix to The Blackest Questions. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’m really excited.
Harry Lennix [00:01:42] Well, I’m excited, too. Thanks for having me, Christina. I’m looking forward to this.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:01:48] Yes, I’m looking forward. I mean, I feel like, you know, so many of our listeners and our viewers grew up watching you from The Five Heartbeats. You know, I am a loyal fan of The Blacklist. I think most of us know your voice more than anything. And so, you know, my producer and I were talking before you came on, it’s like, whoo hoo hoo! The Harry Lennix voice is a very unique and distinct voice. When did you know you had when you had something, when you had that that thing that this this acting thing’s going to work out for me?
Harry Lennix [00:02:21] Well, I think I had a fairly early indication because I had this ability to recall lines, you know, not just my own, but if I was at some sort of a school production and somebody went up on the line, which was not uncommon, you know, you’re doing those group shows and some person has to say, you know, three men from the east and somebody else has to say, you know, two eggs and bacon. Somebody would inevitably forget, but I would always know the. So I thought at that point, oh, you know, I’ve got this aptitude. And then I think in my first high school play well, actually before that, in elementary school, I played the lead character of Thomas Edison in a show called The Electric Sunshine Man. And somebody gave me the great compliment. Christie They said that. They said Christina, they said. You reminded me of Clifton Davis on. That’s My Mama. I think that’s what it was.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:23] That’s a major compliment. And I used to teach what I teach at a Jesuit institution. You know, I was a thespian for a hot second. But when you were studying to become a priest. Tell us about that. Because I know that you were once a public school teacher. Music and physics, so you had a whole bunch of lives as well. But tell us about studying to become a priest.
Harry Lennix [00:03:43] I think as a matter of fact, I think we met each other, Christine, at Fordham. I came by one day, did I not, and did a something with August Wilson. It was some sort of a special session. Anyway, I think that was you, I’m pretty sure. Yeah.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:03:57] Even though I’m not in the theater department, I just. I love the theater people, so I always swing.
Harry Lennix [00:04:01] Right. Okay, great. Great. Well, I you know, early on, I didn’t have a father to raise me. My father died before I was two. And so, you know, it’s it’s quite interesting thing. You know, I went to Catholic schools. My father was a devout Catholic and sent me there, Catholic school. So the first person that I called father was a guy with, you know, the collar. So I guess I always associated that with, you know, a kind of parental role. And and I thought that since I did not have a father, you know, I could be that to many people in a way. And so so I was immediately interested in the. An ecclesiastical life, if you will. And. But it didn’t. You know, I also knew that I was curious about the outside world, something outside of, you know, the cloth and something that that, you know, was more universal in a way. And I thought that that could be, you know, acting or politics or teaching or any number of professions. But I seemed, as I said, to have had early indication that I should pursue this path. It was pretty, while it was not easy, you know, it was pretty clear. And so I took the steps and. And not. No, no. Point was were those steps faulty, I don’t think. And so here I am, you know.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:30] Well, and we’re we’re very thankful that you took this this path, I mean, considering the roles that you’ve had. So are you ready to play the Blackest Questions?
Harry Lennix [00:05:39] I am ready to play the Blackest Questions. I love that title. I’ll see what I can do.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:05:45] I’m playing The Blackest Questions with Harry Lennix. This is question number one, this Pulitzer Prize winning August Wilson play starring Samuel L Jackson and David Washington took its final bow in New York City at the Barrymore Theater in January of 2023. Which play is it?
Harry Lennix [00:06:02] Well, that would be, I think, well, The Piano Lesson, but I think it’s one of the few that have been filmed. You know, I think PBS did it not long ago.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:06:11] So The Piano is a story based in the 1930s about the Charles family that battle each other over their shared legacy and an antique piano. And as I mentioned, The Piano Lesson won a Pulitzer Prize for best drama and was the fourth play in the Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle, which has ten different plays that he wrote about African-American struggle throughout the 20th century. So your Broadway debut, if I’m not mistaken, was in August Wilson’s Radio Golf. How did that happen? How did you land that role?
Harry Lennix [00:06:38] Well. I think, you know, it’s interesting. I worked with August and and he was my idol, of course, as a playwright, wonderful person. I had the opportunity to get to know him personally over many years. But there was a play of King Hedley the second, and Tony Todd started it out. But I got to do it in D.C.. I’m sorry. I got to do it in L.A. And August Wilson, I think based on that performance, thought about me for the last play of the ten Play Cycle Radio Golf. And so I have it on good evidence that that he wrote that with me in mind. And I think that that’s how how I got it. After his after his death, I was able to, you know, bring it to the McCarter in New Jersey and then and then on to Broadway. So one of the great honors of my life.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:07:33] So, you know, you’ve won several awards for your stage acting. You’ve even portrayed Malcolm X. It’s among the many roles that you played on stage Now, is it is stage acting sort of like children? Are you allowed to have a favorite? And if so, what role is your favorite?
Harry Lennix [00:07:50] You know, I actually use that very, very metaphor today because I said the same thing about my favorite episode of The Blacklist. But but that said, you know, I think my roles. Our favorite. You know, they’ve changed over the years. But I would have to say that if I had to pick one because I did it both on stage and screen, it would have to be Aaron the more. And Julie Taymor is Titus Andronicus. That’s probably my favorite. He’s such a bad ass, you know, He’s such a great character. They consider him Shakespeare’s prototypical arch villain. Written before Jago, for example, We know that Titus is in earlier play, but. But that said, he’s so eloquent and artful with his disdain for the power system and structure, and he prefers his own Black son over the entirety of Rome. And he says so in the most eloquent language that only Shakespeare could write. So you combine the kind of liberation politics and the kind of esthetic evil of the character and the delicious fun that that presents, and you get the chance to do that with Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange. Well, yeah, I’d have to say that’s my favorite experience.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:09] Oh, I love that you have a favorite. Well, we’re about to take a quick commercial break. I’m with the eloquent and artful Harry Lennix, and we’ll be right back. We’re playing the Blackest Questions. And we’re back with Harry Lennix. We’re playing the Blackest Questions. Harry, you are one for one. You ready to play question number two?
Harry Lennix [00:09:31] Yes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:32] Keep the streak going.
Harry Lennix [00:09:33] That’s it.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:34] Okay.
Harry Lennix [00:09:34] It’s only a streak after two. It’s only a streak after.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:09:38] So, like you, this Black actor launched his career on the stage in the Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun and eventually broke into film, becoming the first Black man to win an Oscar in the best actor category. Who was he?
Harry Lennix [00:09:53] But then, other than the great Sidney Poitier, you know what a what a wonderful idol to all of us. Like a mentor paterfamilias. You know, he’s really in so many ways the first. But of course, we know he also comes with a long legacy and he knew that as well. So anyway, the great Sidney Poitier.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:10:11] You are correct. I lived in the Bahamas until he was 15 when he moved to Miami and then New York, where he joined the American Negro Theater. His first movie role was in the 1950 drama No Way Out, where he played the role of a lone Black doctor working in an all white hospital. His acting career spanned more than 50 years, and for ten years, he was the Bahamian ambassador to Japan. And when he died last year, Tyler Perry said that there was no man in the business that was more of a North star for him than Sidney Poitier. And clearly for so many other actors. And so when you think back on the legacy of his career and the impact it’s had on your career, what do you see as some of the through lines between, you know, his eloquence and, I would argue, the eloquence that you bring to stage and film and television?
Harry Lennix [00:11:00] Well, thank you for the comparisons. Always great to be in anyway.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:11:03] Good company.
Harry Lennix [00:11:04] That’s great. Was pretty good company there. I think that, you know, the thing I have always taken away from him is his his grace of movement. You know, like, if you look at Sidney Poitier walk, there’s a kind of swing that he has to it. It’s it’s it’s both sort of demonstrative, but but so subtle. You know, it’s got this this beautiful dance thing to it. And he’s got the same thing with his voice.
Sidney Poitier [00:11:33] I will carry with me to my grave the wonders I have experience.
Harry Lennix [00:11:42] So that kind of lilting quality is something that I think in oratory, rhetoric, ballet, you know, these are the kinds of things that grace what has been called poetry in motion. And I think that he is that. And so I stole that really from, of course, the way that he walked the walk outside of the, off screen as well and off stage. You know, great elegance, great poise, great temperance. You know, I think that these are the things that we could all learn from his the kind of statesmanship. You know, you can see him. He could he could have a president really good if he’s absolutely right to it. Yeah.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:27] Well, you know, during lockdown, I watched a lot of, you know, movies that I should have seen and I hadn’t seen. And so I went down Sidney Poitier, you know, rabbit hole and and even the movies that he did with Bill Cosby, you know, on Saturday night, Let’s do it again. And it also seems as though he was having fun in some of his films. And there’s just like an inner light and a joy that we saw from him. And so in his breaking of barriers, fast forward, you know, 50, 60 years. Where do you think Hollywood is in terms of, you know, racial and even gender inclusion when it comes to getting these roles where, you know, we can see this type of eloquence and detail and fluidity of Black masculinity on the screen?
Harry Lennix [00:13:14] Well, I think there’s a good deal of it. Frankly, I think that now more than ever, you know. We could raise questions sometimes about the integrity or the merit of some of the great numbers of Black people that we see in the media. I think that’s probably still the case. Not just my opinion. You know, the Blacks are actually overrepresented in the media, and I think the people are especially sensitive now to making sure that that, you know, that it be told from certain perspectives. And I think those are good movements, good things that are happen. I think that we’re seeing more women represented in the media, more women of color. And so I think all of that is is a step in a positive direction, specifically toward men, since I think that was the specific question. I think that there is a lot of room for improvement. And I think we’re still seeing us dwelling on the same tropes of of servitude or depravity frequently. Or you also have the sort of. Hyper. How can we, how could I put it? They’re either complete superheroes, they’re unrealistic and unrelatable, or they are, you know, sort of digging in the dirt of the past and the present. But that’s the underbelly. So I think that there’s room for improvement. We done a very good job, in my opinion. Christina.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:14:50] Well, I appreciate your contribution to telling that soil we’re playing the Blackest Questions. I’m with Harry Lennix, he’s two for two. We’ll be right back. A quick commercial break. And we’re back. We’re playing the Blackest Questions. I’m with Harry Linux. You’re doing an amazing job. Are you ready for question number three?
Harry Lennix [00:15:15] Yes, I think. So far.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:20] Great. Okay. There’s Trinidadian born American jazz classical pianist and singer was an outspoken critic of racial discrimination and segregation. And she was also the wife of a New York congressman. Who was she?
Harry Lennix [00:15:34] That was the one. What could one use? Ebullient, effervescent, wonderful. Hazel Scott. Whose.
[00:15:43] That’s right.
[00:15:43] a tremendous jazz piano player.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:15:46] Hazel Scott was a child musical prodigy, receiving scholarships to study at the Juilliard School when she was eight. In the 1950s, Scott became the first African-American woman to host her own television show, The Hazel Scott Show, which was a 15 minute music program where she performed show tunes. And in 1945, Scott married Baptist minister and U.S. Congressman Adam Clayton Powell. So you actually played Adam Clayton Powell, her husband, in Showtime’s Keep the Faith Baby, which you won a Black Reel Award, and you were nominated for both an NAACP Image Award and a Golden Satellite Award. And Vanessa Williams played Hazel. So how did you prepare for that role in particular, and how do you normally prepare for roles? Because you’ve played some very diverse and distinct characters throughout your career?
Harry Lennix [00:16:34] Yes, I have. I’ve had the great honor of playing a number of them. Of course, none. None were more favorite to be than than the great Adam Clayton Powell is such a colorful man, such a important person in the world. Really. The world wrote most of the major pieces of legislation that, you know, that formed the Great Society that that Lyndon Johnson was known for. But that said, I normally prepare by saying if there’s any kind of footage of the actor I’m sorry of the subject. And in this case, there’s an abundant number of films that you could well not film so much, but footage that you could look at with Adam Clayton Powell. You can go on YouTube. I don’t even think that was around when I was doing. Keep the Faith Baby for Showtime. But, you know, there are there were other things like videotapes. PBS did a wonderful job. A tribute to him and in the American experience. And so I looked a lot at that. And then, of course, the records, you could get albums of his. We had an album of Keep the Faith, Baby. So, you know, normally you you have in 20th century figures, you get to look at tape and you get to listen. And that’s, of course, great. And, you know, if you don’t have that, you’re going back in time. Then of course there’s whatever literature or articles or whatever. It’s kind of like being an investigator in some way. And that’s our study. That’s that’s the most fun part to me, really, in terms of preparing for a role.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:18:10] And when you’re preparing, do you sort of lay things out first? I mean, do you do you write things down? Do you keep a journal, you know, in addition to, you know, if you have the ability to watch that particular world or that individual, but you know where, what is a more detailed process for you?
Harry Lennix [00:18:31] Yes. I don’t keep a journal. When I know I’m ready to play a character. I’m able to draw it out, you know, literally sort of sketch it out. Pretty fine detail, what they look like, how they walk, what they’re wearing, these kinds of things. And I can and I can figure that out visually, sort of schematically rather more than I can intellectually, although that’s a big part of it.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:00] Mmhmm.
Harry Lennix [00:19:00] So but I try to drive study as much as it can be, you know, physically looking at the behavior, listening to the the person that I may be playing or people who are from that part of the world even now, you know, where where you’re picking up things that are the music, the music of it. And again, as I go back to Poitier, the walk, the swing of it, how it moves. So it depends. But that’s that’s normally my approach is to do whatever intellectual work there is to be done observation research, and then and then try to figure out what that looks like, what that sounds like.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:19:43] Right. And I mean, I think for those of us who’ve been watching you in so many different films and on stage and on television over the years, there’s a meticulousness to your approach that is just so beautiful to watch. So this is this is now the Blackest Question’s turned into the Harry Lenox Fan Club. And we’ll be right back after the commercial break.
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Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:43] We’re playing the Blackest Questions with Harry Lennix. We’re moving on to question number four. You were three for three. Mr. Lennix, are you ready to continue your streak? This is officially a streak, according to your definition.
Harry Lennix [00:20:54] This is officially a streak.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:20:54] That’s okay. Question number four. This fraternity was the first fraternal organization founded at a historically Black college. Some of its notable members include Reverend Jesse Jackson, Michael Jordan, Steve Harvey and Super Bowl quarterback Jalen Hurts. What fraternity is it?
Harry Lennix [00:21:15] Well, I’m a proud member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. It is we who were founded at Howard University.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:25] That’s right.
Harry Lennix [00:21:25] Yep, that’s exactly right. In 1911.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:21:29] I’m a proud daughter of someone who is in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity incorporated life membership number 242. But we know that the fraternity was founded in November of 1911 by three liberal arts students at Howard University. The frat has now now is more than 750 chapters. And in 1924, one of its members, Carter G. Woodson, urged his fraternity to launch Negro History Week to publicize the accomplishments of African-Americans. And by 1976, that idea had evolved in what we now know as Black History Month. So you’re a proud member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. You’ve also had a lead role in Stomp the Yard, which has a lot to do with Black Greek life. Where did you pledge and what was that experience for you?
Harry Lennix [00:22:14] Well, this is an interesting story because I pledged and and well, I went over in 2012, I began the process the 2011. The 100th year. But that being the case that made me, I think, 47 years old. So I didn’t pledge I do the normal circumstances of an undergrad. I was I pledge a grad chapter in the North Shore of Chicago. It was really a unique and very special process. And and and I’m glad that after wanting to be Que for so long, I was able to finally do it.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:22:50] Yeah. And you know, and I did not pledge. My mother’s an AKA, my father’s a Que, but a lot of my upbringing was in sort of Omega Psi Phi. My dad’s very active in the frat and what I love is this idea of brotherhood where I was always taught that no matter in the world where I was in the world, if I ever needed anything, my dad would always say, “Find a Que.” Right? And if you can’t find a Que, then just find a Greek, right? So it’s like find a Kappa. And my grandfather was a Sigma, you know, brother in law’s a Kappa, but he’s like, you know, find a Greek and then, you know, you kind of go down the list, then find a Black person, you know. But he’s always so the first thing you do, it’s like if you ever need anything, you find a Que. And I just I think that it’s such a beautiful way, especially for Black men to create, you know, a whole additional family in addition to their they’re given families. And we know that we’ve heard reports about, you know, hazing in issues that fraternal organizations are having. What would you sort of tell Black men who are looking to join a fraternity at any age in life since you didn’t sort of follow the traditional kind of younger path of college pledging?
Harry Lennix [00:24:00] Well, you know, I presume that they’re doing that as a grad, then, you know, they’re grown men who, you know, know what it is that they want to involve themselves in. And and I would say look at the local chapter that you’re going to join and see what they’re doing. You know, there’s there should be a very clear record of what they do and what they have done and what they continue to propagate and to to consistently provide. And if that’s the type of organization that you want to belong to, to add your voice to a collective effort, where to find brothers who are like minded that can join in your effort, then by all means, do it. But if it’s, you know, but you know the nature of it. And if you’re not trying to do that kind of thing and you find the chapter that isn’t up too much, you could do that to. You’re a grown man. Yeah.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:24:51] That’s right. What’s been one of the best parts of being in a fraternity since you’ve pledged this past, I guess, decade now?
Harry Lennix [00:25:01] Yes. Well, I think it’s kind of like finding a good church, you know, a home church. Something about the spirit of of of the brothers, you know, that that that join in union. It could be one on one, you know, with the fraternity. But when you’re with that person, you have a kind of language and there’s a there’s a common understanding of reality in a sense and a common approach to dealing with that. And I think that it’s not uniform, but there are principles on which, you know, we can all agree. And if those are of like minded thinking, wish to, you know, join with you than you have fellows. And I think that that’s that’s the beautiful part for me.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:25:48] Fantastic. Well, I’m here with Harry Lennix playing the Blackest Questions. We’re going to take a quick commercial break. And when we come back, we’re going to see if you can go five for five. No pressure. Okay, we’re back. We’re playing with Blackest Questions. I’m with the Harry Lennix where I want to question number five. Harry, are you ready?
Harry Lennix [00:26:14] I’m confident. I’m feeling good.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:16] You’re killing the game. I would say you can. You can roll in, you know, you can have a little more bass in the voice. Like, you know what? I’m ready.
Harry Lennix [00:26:21] I’m ready.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:23] Okay. This singer and musician from Georgia is credited with helping invent soul and R&B music. He’s often referred to as the genius. Who was he?
Harry Lennix [00:26:36] I’ve got to say, Isaac Hayes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:26:39] No. It’s Ray Charles. Ray Charles Robinson, senior, was a singer, songwriter, pianist and alto saxophonist who lost his eyesight during childhood. His style of music, combined jazz, R&B, gospel and country. He won 17 Grammy Awards and was nominated 37 times and is the only one of a handful of artists to be in both country and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So you appeared in the Oscar award winning film Ray as Joe Adams, friend, manager and promoter of Ray for more than 40 years. So what’s something about Ray Charles that surprised you in making this film? You know, we know that you do meticulous research as you approach your work.
Harry Lennix [00:27:33] Well. I forgot about the genius part. I’m so ashamed. But anyway.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:27:42] It’s all got love here at the Blackest Questions. Trust me, when people have turned the tables on me, I’m pretty much 0 from ten.
Harry Lennix [00:27:49] That’s funny. No, no, no. That’s very good. The the genius. Well, I think the very interesting thing was I met Ray Charles a couple of times before, you know, before the movie I met him. While a Five Heartbeat. We had the occasion to to you know, we ran it to Ray Charles. And I’d been in this company a couple of times before. But that said. I met Joe Adams, the character that I was going to, that I played in it and I met him in person and we had a long talk and we had a long talk. And I think that. That was pretty cool because that’s a rare thing when you’re studying someone is that the person is actually alive still. And so that it’s almost you know, it’s almost a handicap too, because the person’s alive, you want to sort of portray the whole truth. If you don’t if you happen to know it. Because everybody’s whole truth is not as attractive as it might be.
Ray [00:28:57] Leave us alone. We need to talk. Ray. You can step outside, Joe. I’ll be in my office.
Harry Lennix [00:29:11] But that said, I didn’t have any such reservations about playing Joe Adams. He was more more or less as he was presented in the film, you know, like, you know, like him or hate him. I know some people think he’s a very antagonistic guy and he’s as villainous of some in some sense, but some people are charmed by him. And and I found he was very much like that in real life. There are people. That was based on interviews with people and to a large extent on interviews with himself, with Joe Adams himself. So he was an interesting, fascinating, accomplished man. And and it was great to be able not just to to meet him in real life, but also to see some of the performances. He was an actor. He was a first coast to coast Black deejay, you know, So so these were he was a Tuskegee airman, you know. Yeah. He contributed a great deal to his church. I know. He gave them their piano, for example. He was very interesting man, so. Well, I know, but you know. Right.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:30:16] But I think so many people are appreciate about your work is that you actually can show and you do show the levels of people. It’s, you know, they’re always multi-dimensional characters. So even their flaws and their complications are extrapolated in these very precise ways where I feel like we leave your characters sometimes conflicted. Right. Especially when you’re playing a little more of a sinister character. I was like, Well, I mean, I felt it, you know?
Harry Lennix [00:30:46] Yeah, right.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:30:47] I could see where it’s come about. Right.
Harry Lennix [00:30:50] Right. Yes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:30:52] I really just. I’m so appreciative of the attention to detail. Okay. So before we get to the Black Lightning Round, we’re going to take a brief break. I’m with Harry when explaining Blackest Questions. Okay, we’re back. Before I let you go, Mr. Lennix. Do you have time for the Black Lightning Round?
Harry Lennix [00:31:14] Yes, I do. I got to redeem myself.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:17] Now, this is. There are no right answers. You just tell me the first thing that pops in your mind, okay?
Harry Lennix [00:31:22] Yes.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:23] Favorite August Wilson play.
Harry Lennix [00:31:29] Ma Rainey.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:30] Oh. Ooh. And if you had to choose a stage film or television role>
Harry Lennix [00:31:39] Film.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:40] Okay. Favorite Matrix from the series.
Harry Lennix [00:31:44] First Matrix.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:46] Favorite member of the Five Heartbeats. Duck. Duck. J.T. Eddie. Choir boy or Dresser?
Harry Lennix [00:31:52] Eddie.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:31:53] Okay. Which movie is better, original Top Gun or Top Gun: Maverick.
Harry Lennix [00:32:00] Original Top Gun.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:01] Okay. And last but not least, you’ve lived in the three biggest cities in the country, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Which is your favorite and why?
Harry Lennix [00:32:11] Sweet home, Chicago. Because it is home. Because it is. It’s the root for me. It’s the it’s the baseline, the foundation. So had to pick that one.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:20] And are you a deep dish person?
Harry Lennix [00:32:23] No, no, I’m not, no.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:27] That’s the scandal of the whole episode.
Harry Lennix [00:32:29] I hope so.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:31] You lovr chicago but no deep dish.
Harry Lennix [00:32:31] That’s right. I’m hoping to stir up some controversy. I didn’t say about eat it, but. But I prefer the thin crust.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:32:38] Okay, so before we let you go, tell us a little bit more about some projects you have in the works so our listeners can keep up with you and we can continue to support the great Harry Lennix as well.
Harry Lennix [00:32:50] Thank you so much. It’s been so great being with you, Christina, and your in your watchers viewers. My project right now, the thing that’s which I hope will be my magnum opus, is that I’m trying to build or in the process of building a performing arts center and museum in Chicago. We call the museum the African-American Museum for the Performing Arts, and we call the Performing Arts Center, the Lillian Marcy Center for the Performing Arts. And so we are you know, we really to be the the capital of Black performance arts culture, where we want to bring state of the art theater and to archive everything that goes in there. We want to celebrate what has already been accomplished with Black people in the performing arts who created really the only indigenous performing arts here in the United States and our music and our dance and so forth. And we want to be able to have the Citadel really do the capital of that, as I said, right, where much of that was born in Chicago on the South Side and Bronzeville. So that’s what I’m working on. We are underway. We have the properties or under control of those two sites, but also eventually going to build a museum that is a living museum, that is effectively a college or a university where people can major in these performing arts forms. Now, that’s not on the table yet, but that’s that’s where I hope it’s going. And and I hope it lasts for many decades and generations to come. But we have we have to build it first. But that’s.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:34:30] That’s right. That’s the way that you will build it. And we will come. And you mentioned the name you said Lillian Mercer.
Harry Lennix [00:34:37] Lillian Marcy Center. And so my my mother’s name was my mother’s name was Lillian Lennix. And and then Marcella Gilly or Marcy Gilly was the principal of Bass Elementary School where I was a substitute teacher for for several years and woman who was my great mentor. So it’s for mothers and mentors. And in the in the city of Chicago, the people who allow culture to thrive. And we ought to preserve it. We ought to capture it, create it and preserve it. And that’s that’s what we’re about to do.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:35:14] Well, I can’t wait to have you back on the Blackest Questions so we can hear more about this. We can talk to you about more of your projects, But all of our listeners just be on the lookout for not just Harry Lennix on your televisions, but obviously in different ways that we can support this new cultural institution that will be a part of our communities, large and small, for years to come. I just want to thank you again, Mr. Lennix, for playing the Blackest questions with us. You did very well.
Harry Lennix [00:35:41] Thank you.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:35:43] And I want to thank you all for listening to the Blackest questions. This show is produced by Sasha Armstrong, Akilah Shedrick, Geoffrey Trudeau, and Regina Griffin is the director of the Podcast Network. If you like what you heard, subscribe to the podcast so you never miss an episode. And please download theGrio app to listen and watch many more great shows.
Panama Jackson [00:36:18] Coming this February. theGrio Black Podcast Network presents Dear Culture: Tru’ish Black Stories.
Dr. Christina Greer [00:36:26] When you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways, it’s, you know, I would say of my four, Randy Watson is my number one.
Michael Harriot [00:36:41] When the news about Rickey first broke, what I heard about it is the thing you hear about, you know, every time somebody Black dies that it was gang related. That means the police don’t know what happened. So they just said probably the gangs, probably, you know, the other Black dudes.
Damon Young [00:36:57] When I think of Akeelah, you know, I think about I think about how impressionable white people can be. I think about how, you know, if you watch that movie again, you know, he should’ve lost like three times.
Panama Jackson [00:37:10] Where were you when you heard the story about them suckers getting served by Wade’s dance crew?
Shamira Ibrahim [00:37:16] You know, it’s crazy that you mention this. So as a New Yorker, right, Everyone knows where they were. Oh 911 Right. You know, couple of years later, right. 23 Everyone hears about this crazy moment in a boxing ring because that’s where dancers duke it out. Right. In boxing rings.
Panama Jackson [00:37:33] If you could say something to Ricky right now, what would you say to him?
Monique Judge [00:37:37] Ricky, You should’ve never got that girl pregnant. You knew I had a crush on you. You should have got with me.
Panama Jackson [00:37:41] Instead of moments in Black culture examined like never before. Join us each week as we dive into the Black moments that changed us. That changed the world. Make sure to subscribe to Dear Culture so you never miss an episode.